Unreal Expectations of Grandeur

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by MurrayMinchin, Jun 30, 2006.

  1. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Today I had a GREAT three hour chat about all things analog photography with another 4x5 photographer who lives in the same town as me. We've bumped into each other every six months or so on the sidewalk or in a local park and have always said, "We should get together some time and talk". Well, today we did and we covered so many topics I can't remember them all. It was the fastest three hours I've had in years!

    At one point he talked about going to a workshop in the U.S. a couple decades ago, and his experience of seeing some Ansel Adams prints in a gallery. Just from the look in his eye and the way he asked me if I'd seen any of Ansel's prints I had to say, "I've seen lint in Ansel's skies too!!!!"

    Once in a while ones expectations of grandeur are unrealized.

    Where do your expectations of perfection meet with reality? Do you hold yourself to unrealistic aspirations...or in other words...would you not show an image because of flaws only you and a few others could see even though the subject matter transends your percieved flaws? I've got a few of those on the back burner.

    Ansel did say (and this is a vague memory of the original quote) that he'd rather see a fuzzy image of a clear concept, than a clear image of a fuzzy concept. Clearly, he lived that motto.

    Murray
     
  2. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    Murray,

    As I get older (not sure I'm maturing) I have increasingly rejected perfection in what I do and with who I hang. It is the imperfections that give character and appeal to people IMO.

    As far as photographs, I'm a very good printer and have been employed by a couple commercial studios in that capacity in the past. I teach photography and darkroom skills at a community college on a daily basis and so have continued my darkroom endeavors there. Until lately. After reaching a place where I could pretty much make great negatives and prints, I turned to Diana cameras and minimal printing manipulations. I found I enjoyed the process more when I recorded the image on film pretty decently, accepted the imperfections, and didn't worry about tweaking the image so much in the printing stage. And, although it may sound blasphemous here, I even dabbled in making digital inkjet negatives and correcting images in Photoshop. Those digital negatives printed perfectly in van dyke brown. And I absolutely hated the prints and the digital process after I had achieved that perfection. I have absolutely no interest in that arena now. Nor am I drawn to enlarging any longer.

    That perfect digineg print was a turning point for me. Now I do wetplate collodion and each plate is uniquely flawed. Sometimes there are development streaks or "comets", sometimes the plate is fogged or veiled, sometimes the pour is too thick or thin or absent in "islands" altogether, or the developer rips part of the image from the plate, etc. None of them are "perfect." I love the flaws and the uniqueness of each plate.

    My Muse walks with a limp.

    Joe
     
  3. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Joe,

    I think that has to be about one of the best responses to one of my quirky questions here in the Ethics and Philosophy Forum!! :smile: !!

    With sharp and unsharp masking techniques I'm getting to a point where the possible avenues of control are becoming mind-boggling. While I don't think I can let go of that level of control in my personal work because it allows what I see within to be put on paper, I'm really close to ordering a Holga for the shear FUN of photographing.

    My Muse, as I, also walks with a limp.

    Murray
     
  4. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    It is ironic that you write from BC (i.e. Canada).

    My response is not nearly as elevated at those above - but sometimes you just show the pic - lint and all.

    On another forum, using a different ID I initiated this thread yesterday:

    http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25408

    It's actually a 20+ year old shot and I sure as heck should have cleaned the slide some months ago before scanning it (hence the apologies in the thread post). But you know something? The "sentiment" was appreciated and the pic carried the message!

    They don't all have to be perfect.
     
  5. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Yes the technically correct with no imagination is the burden of the photographic World. Some of the most inspiring images are from those who aren't hung up on technique. They start out in schools with creative ideas and at the end of school technique has taken over and left them with a sterile view of the World.

    A technically perfect photograph of lanscape is great and holds you for a minute until you realize that it is just a technically perfect snapshot. A not so perfect photograph of a storm in that landscape is so much more interesting that you go back to it over and over. It has movement and is not sterile.

    A big challenge for me planning to go to Italy is not falling into the trap of the "Tuscan Lanscape No.8644". Look at Paul Strands view of Italy then look at some of the contempory photographs.

    It's a big camera on the side of the road syndrome.

    Curt
     
  6. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    Joe...great answer.

    Murray...I actually did get a Holga just to make myself let go of the lightmeter and work with inherent technical imperfections and limitations. So far, it has been a really great experience, and it has produced some great negatives. I haven't printed any of them yet...but the darkroom is almost done so I'll get to that soon...

    A couple years back I took a couple of wildlife photos that seemed pretty nice. I shot four rolls of the same (or a pretty similar) image, and chose the two that had the most going for them to print. I usually work with medium format negatives, but these were 35 mm negs, as the photos were taken with a 300 f2.8, and I haven't found one of those for my Mamiya yet...and goodness knows I wouldn't be affording it even if it existed.

    I made two prints from each negative, then noticed that there was a little circle on one of the negatives. Then I started looking harder, and there were two or three! And a couple of circles on the other negative as well. Not sure exactly what it was, perhaps bubbles? They were not noticeable except on close and intent inspection, but it ruined the images for me. Now, after a couple of years and a lot of rolls through a Holga, I'm thinking of going back and printing more of those images. After all, they are nice images. And just by looking, you can tell it went through a (problematic) wet process.

    But I've got two huge projects to finish before I go back and mess with those...
     
  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Murray,

    I'll never forget a Karsh exhibition I went to a while back, where the plane of focus in a number of pictures was in the wrong place. Not, I think, artistically or deliberately so: I mean, in a portrait of Desmont Tutu, why would you want to focus on the arm of the chair instead of his face?

    But part of the problem was that the pictures were too big, getting on for three by four feet/90x120cm. At a reasonable size, these shortcomings would not have been anything like as obvious. I was also underwhelmed by a too-big Ansel Adams enlargement from 6x6cm that I saw at the New York show (the show formerly known as VISCOMM) a few years back.

    Since then I have increasingly believed two things:

    1 Even the great masters make mistakes
    2 Most people print too big.

    Both have helped me be more relaxed about my own photography and the size of pictures I like. For me, the only reason in most cases to do a 12x15 inch print is if you have a 12x15 inch negative.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  8. Lachlan Young

    Lachlan Young Member

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    Hear, hear

    I normally print 35mm negs to 5x7.5 inches and medium format to 8x8 inches - the tonality is glorious and you can get away with some truly shoddy technique! Besides the paper cost is less and you use less chemistry.

    Lachlan
     
  9. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Just hung an exhibit this morning, and out of twenty photographers, only four of us did small images. Most of the rest were 16" by 20" or larger. A few of us had a discussion about the gaining prevalence of large and really large prints. One thing that came out was that unless you are one of the big names in photography, really large fine art prints can be tough to sell.

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  10. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

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    I almost always print 8x10 and crop heviley to see the limits of the film! its great!
     
  11. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    Flaw(ed)

    I go to some of the big name gallerys in NYC and sometimes I'm in shock at what I'm looking at. Usually it is a very famous but very dead photographer whos work is being pawned off on the unsuspecting public. In one particular it was the work of Charles Pratt; a very deeply moving photographer. (if you are not familiar with his work you should check it out) I was in total shock. The prints on the wall were easily third rate and were extremely flawed. Pinholes; marks;scratches; you name it! Apparently someone found a box of rejects and now they were being sold as fine art. And we're talking thousands of dollars here! I think Charles
    would have had a coronary.
    There is NO such thing as a perfect print. That's the beauty of what we do. It's not all that hard to make flawless prints. Just use good technique; try to work as fast as possible;and pray that the dust bunnies are out of town that day...
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    thank you joe
    you said
    what i was not able
    to put into words myself.

    --john
     
  13. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy Member

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    Probably my most well received photo I took in college, and still one of my favorites that I've taken was enhanced by such a flaw. I'd explain more, but I've already done that in the gallery posting for it. --> CLICK!
     
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  15. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Lachlan,

    Are you asking for an f/64 fatwah?

    Everyone knows that the purpose of photography is to purify the soul through suffering, not to take good pictures!

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Peter,

    I had a similar experience a few years back at Arles. I love Rodchenko's work -- but the prints of his on show must have been his rejects. Technically, Rodchenko's print often left a certain amount to be desired, but these were his aesthetic failures too. If these were all the Rodchenko pics I'd ever seen, I'd wonder what the fuss was about. The same with the Drtikol prints I saw in (as far as I recall) a major Swiss museum.

    In fact -- here's some heresy coming up -- I suspect that some of the 'greats' (including even Ansel Adams) are so highly regarded because their work reproduces so well, and their original prints are surprisingly often a let-down.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  17. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I do not think that is heresy - at all. I was stunned to see an (THE?) original of Edward Weston's "Nude, 1936" at the MFA in Boston.

    In all honesty, if it was mine, it would go to the circular file, and I'd make another print, with more contrast, using fresher chemistry ...

    I'm not trying to establish myself as a better printer than Weston ... but... Possibly there was much more attention given to content than technique then, or modern materials are ... gasp!! ... better ... or the print had degraded over time...?

    in any event, the printed reproductions, in many cases CAN be better - at least technically, than the originals.
     
  18. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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  19. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    If so, then I'm well on my way to salvation. :cool:
     
  20. SeamusARyan

    SeamusARyan Member

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    I had a similar experience having seen the book on Charles Jones I then went to the exhibition at Hamiltons Gallery in London and was dissappointed that the reproductions were better than the original prints in many cases, but wonderful images all the same.

    enjoy and be well

    Seamus
    www.seamusryan.com
     
  21. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    As photographers it is easy to get ones nose up to a print and find the flaws and most prints will have them unless the negative is "cleaned" digitally and an inkjet made. And even then I have seen minor flaws of banding if one looks close enough.

    But most non-photographers don't look at a print and search for the flaws. This is a weird quirk among photographers I suppose due to the technical nature of the medium, wanting to compare ones own skills to a master and be able to say "look his print has the same flaws mine have". Sometimes I think that folks think a perfect, "sterile" print with no flaws in the technical aspects is the ultimate in photography. We should strive for the best possible print but obviously Weston and Adams were not obsessive about it and it has not hurt their reputations.

    It is when we stand back and look at the master's print at a normal viewing distance should we make comparisons. At that distance it is not quite so easy to say his work is just like mine. At a normal viewing distance it is the image as a whole that we see not the technical aspects of the image.

    If you want flawless prints, photoshop the negatives and print out new ones with all the corrections and then make your enlargements.


    But I will add that I saw some Robert Frank prints several years ago and they had lots of badly spotted marks and dust.
     
  22. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Well said! (As I recall, I did have my nose up against the Ansel print to find the lint).

    Murray
     
  23. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I understand all this .. but don't make the mistake that I value technical perfection over all else - I don't. In fact, I see the VALUE of what others may consider to be "flaws" (see" "blown highlight" discussion) - I think a little more flexibly than *some* others do.

    What I wrote about was a comparison between the "original print" and a printed reproduction.
    We carry these images around in our memories... and when the actual, original image is different than our internal image, it is a shock. When the images printed in books differ so intensely, it is even a greater shock.

    There really is no way to discuss this intelligently without "at hand" copies of both the original print and the reproduction.

    My point was that, "It is not heresy".
     
  24. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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  25. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    When Ansel Adams oversaw the reproduction of his prints for the New York Graphic Society calendars, he said the prints looked nearly as good in reproduction as in the originals. In the absence of originals, I treasure those reproductions. However, there are times when such technique is an insignificant factor. Consider the Robert Capa photo taken on Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion. Technically it is little, if any, better than many Holga images. It conveyed a message to the viewers of that time that technical perfection would have little helped. Too much technical perfection would have lost the feeling of the occasion.
     
  26. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Also absolutely true. The idea of appropriate quality is an interesting one.

    Cheers,

    R